Anthony Minghella (1954-2008) b. Isle of Wight, England.
British writer-director, born in the Isle of Wight, who, after writing for TV, turned director in 1990 and took the world by storm six years later with his version of The English Patient (1996), a book long thought unfilmable. Minghella’s directing skills, in fact, very soon outstripped his writing abilities and, although, partly due to his meticulous preparation, his film output looks likely to be restricted to one movie every three years, he looks set for a high profile film career. He first came to prominence as a playwright, voted most promising writer of the year in 1984 by the London theatre critics. He won the best new play award two years later for Trade in Bangkok and, hoping to see it filmed, turned it into a screenplay. When nothing came of that, nor of other aborted collaborations for the cinema, Minghella decided to direct his own material and, with the help of Channel 4, did just that in 1990 with Truly Madly Deeply (1991), a romantic and funny ghost story which received huge critical acclaim. Minghella’s facility with actors was already apparent: Juliet Stevenson gives a performance of great charm and is well complemented by Alan Rickman as the dead lover who returns to haunt and comfort her. Minghella then made his first Hollywood movie, Mr Wonderful (1993), which kept a fairly low profile at the box-office, despite some good reviews and sweet-natured performances from a strong ensemble cast that includes Matt Dillon, Annabella Sciorra, William Hurt, Mary-Louisen Parker and Vincent D’Onofrio. The script had moments of weakness, which was also true of The English Patient (1996), not that this stopped this sweeping epic from becoming a world-wide blockbuster, and deservedly so, for its performances are finely crafted with loving care. So it was most appropriate that Minghella should win the Oscar for best direction, but merely a nomination for his rather wordy screenplay. The film also took the best picture award. The balding, beaming and bearded Minghella then moved forward to an adaptation of the same Patricia Highsmith novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999). Cold Mountain, based on Charles Frazier’s sombre bestselling American civil war novel, was another meticulously crafted picture in the epic mode. Starring Jude Law and Nicole Kidman – he as a wounded Confederate soldier who decides to desert his army at the end of the war to return home to his love – it was reminiscent of the lush historical pictures of yesteryear like Gone with the Wind. The picture met with a lukewarm reception and struggled to recoup its hefty budget. After this, Minghella’s hands were partly tied by his key role as chairmen of the British Film Institute. Returning to England and his first original screenplay since Truly Madly Deeply, Minghella was literally more at home with the contemporary story of Breaking and Entering (2006), starring Jude Law as an architect involved in the gentrification of King’s Cross. Pleasant, but the film made little impression. Minghella’s last completed film, an adaptation of Alexander McCall Smith’s crime novel, No1 Ladies Detective Agency, was written with Richard Curtis and shot on location in Botswana. He was appointed CBE in 2001.